German automaker BMW Group on Monday, June 26, said it plans to invest $600 million to expand its Spartanburg County plant and create 1,000 jobs during the next five years.
BMW’s Chairman Harald Krueger made the announcement during the company’s Start of Communications event, or unveiling, of its next-generation X3 at BMW Manufacturing Co. near Greer.
Krueger said the company would invest $200 million solely for training and further education for associates at the plant. The company will also roll out a nationwide training program, he said.
“We will keep investing in our people and our business in the United States,” Krueger said. “This underscores our enduring commitment to the people of this great nation and this great state.”
The additional jobs will bring the plant’s employment to almost 10,000 people by 2021.
According to a 2014 economic impact study by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, each job created in the plant results in four jobs created elsewhere in the state.
That means the jobs announced Monday could result in 4,000 or more jobs for the Palmetto State.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster. “I cannot be more proud of this company; more proud of the people of South Carolina; and more proud of the accomplishments and progress that these people and this company have made than I am right now.”
BMW recently marked the 25th anniversary of its announcement made on June 23, 1992, to build its first manufacturing plant outside of Germany on a 1,150-acre site near Greer.
The original investment was $600 million and the automaker hoped to create 1,900 jobs and eventually produce around 150,000 cars per year.
Since the first car rolled off the facility’s assembly line in September 1994, the plant has grown to become BMW’s largest plant by volume in the world.
Today, it represents a nearly $8 billion investment, encompassing more than 5 million square feet, with total production nearing 4 million vehicles.
The annual production capacity of the plant, which is the manufacturing hub of BMW’s X3, X4, X5, X6, and soon-to-be X7 Sports Activity Vehicles, has grown to about 450,000 vehicles per year.
“Let it be said there are more cars made by the BMW family in South Carolina than anywhere else in the world,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. “God bless BMW.”
BMW Manufacturing Co. remained the nation’s largest automotive exporter in 2016.
It shipped 287,700 vehicles, or about 70 percent of the 411,000 vehicles it produced during the previous year, to 140 markets worldwide. Nearly 86 percent of those vehicles were exported via the Port of Charleston.
The plant’s exports were valued at $9.53 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, confirming it as the country’s leading car exporter in terms of value for a third consecutive year.
“This is typical BMW,” said Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt. “They always under-promise and over-deliver. Not only do they build the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine,’ but also they are the ultimate economic engine for Spartanburg County and South Carolina. Everything they do revolves around quality. Today was no exception.”
Monday’s event drew a large crowd of BMW, state and local officials, media, and plant associates.
Krueger’s message hammered home the company’s commitment to its “people, performance, passion and pride.”
“It’s incomparable what BMW has done for this region,” said S.C. Sec. of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “BMW also taught us some things about ourselves. Back then we were what I would call a grey cloth state, meaning we made a lot of things, but not a lot of finished products. Now we make a finished product. … It’s one of the finest in the world.”
Several leaders praised the “risk” BMW took 25 years ago.
Spartanburg County Council Chairman Jeff Horton remembers a time when not everyone was pleased with the automaker’s interest in South Carolina.
“There were a lot of people who were against this project,” Britt said. “I remember some people were actually taking BMWs and physically bashing them to show their opposition… This demonstrates the importance of that decision to step out and do something different.”
The crowd applauded Graham, who urged U.S. President Donald Trump to negotiate a tariff and keep trade flowing between this country and Europe.
“We need more trade; not less,” Graham said. “To those who fear globalization, embrace it, because it’s not going away.”
In January, Trump, while he was still president-elect, criticized BMW and other German automakers for not building more cars in the U.S. He threatened a 35 percent tariff on automobiles built by those companies and shipped to the U.S.
Krueger, who had invited the president to Monday’s event, said BMW supports about 70,000 jobs in this country.
“This is one investment… that, as David Britt said, is the ‘gift that keeps on giving,’ and will keep giving for a long time to come,” McMaster said.
In keeping with tradition, BMW Manufacturing Co. associate Alan Brodin, a graduate of the BMW Scholars Program who was celebrating his first official day on the job, drove a new phytonic blue X3 onto the stage.
The company said it has sold more than 1.5 million X3s worldwide since the model launched in 2003.
Its third generation of the model will be available in a M40i version powered by 3.0-liter, six-cylinder inline engine with a horsepower of about 355, as well as an xDrive30i with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 248 horsepower.
All models will come standard with an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission with shift paddles and BMW’s xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.
In addition to its more aerodynamic design, the new X3 boasts:
- The first M Performance model in the X3 range with best in segment acceleration: 0-60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.
- BMW M Performance carefully developed chassis with reduced unsprung mass, sophisticated kinematics, and optimum weight distribution for enhanced sporting prowess with improved comfort over all terrain.
- Improved aerodynamics featuring BMW Active Kidney Grille, underbody cladding, roof spoiler with Aero Blades on the sides, and Air Curtains.
- Full-color, 75 percent larger Head-Up Display, 10.25-inch Touchscreen and BMW Gesture Control technology.
- Enhanced comfort and safety with Active Protection pre-crash accident detection system, standard Sport seats, 3-zone automatic climate control and rear seatback reclining adjustment.
- First ever factory-installed trailer hitch available in a BMW SAV.
Kenn Sparks, head of U.S. Corporate Communications for BMW of North America, said the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the new X3s could be released in September, after the auto show in Frankfurt, Germany.
The models should hit dealerships in late October, he said.
For more information, visit www.bmwgroup.com.